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Matchup and Memories: Florida State vs Miami

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One of the biggest rivalries in college football.

Miami v Florida State Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Last week, the Florida State Seminoles lost to the NC State Wolfpack (and the flu).

This week, a healthy Seminole squad looks to get back to their winning ways against one of their biggest rivals, the Miami (FL) Hurricanes.

  • Opponent: Miami (FL) Hurricanes
  • First matchup: 10/5/1951 (Miami (FL) won 35-13))
  • Series record: Miami (FL) leads 35-30
  • Current streak: The Hurricanes own a 4 game winning streak.
  • Last game: Miami (FL) blew out Florida State, 52-10.

Florida State must win its last 3 games to become bowl eligible. And the first team in the Noles’ way is a red-hot Miami (FL) team, winners of their last 3 games. Can FSU start its run toward a bowl this week?

Nol…. Tim’s Recruiting Reminiscences

NoleThruandThru is out of town this week, so you’re stuck with my feeble memory. NT&T would regale you with tales from the 90s and some trike unique recruiting nuggets. Instead, you’re stuck with the more recent history. But let’s be honest, every year Florida State and Miami (FL) go head to head over the top recruits from the state of Florida. And often times those players make a huge impact.

Current Miami (FL) running back Jaylan Knighton was once a Florida State commit. He flipped to the Hurricanes and is now their main offensive weapon. If FSU wants to win on Saturday, keeping Knighton in check will be step one.

However, one of my favorite stories in this recruiting rivalry is that of national championship running back Devonta Freeman.

The 4-star running back grew up in Miami and played his high school games for Miami Central. But the former ‘Nole never got the respect he felt he deserved from the Miami (FL) coaching staff. The Hurricanes wouldn’t offer Freeman a scholarship until his senior year, and that disrespect was something Freeman never forgot, and he vowed that the Miami (FL) Hurricanes would never beat him, a vow he kept true during his time in Tallahassee.

Matt Minnick’s memorable moment

The Miami (FL) Hurricanes. The mere mention of them likely evokes a flood of memories for Seminole fans. Some of these are good memories, such as the Miami Muff, Block at the Rock, Dexter Carter’s romp down the sideline on FSU’s first play from scrimmage in 1989 (I covered the latter play in detail a few years ago in our Top 100 plays in FSU History series, with Carter checking in at number 7), and Florida State coming back from a 16-0 deficit in a wild 2014 win down in the 305:

Unfortunately, many of the memories in this series are less than pleasant for FSU fans, particularly if you’re over the age of 30. In fact, the late, great Bobby Bowden once quipped that his tombstone might someday read, “But he played Miami.” With St. Bobby’s recent passing, I thought I’d honor him with some memories from the Miami (FL) matchup that finally got the proverbial monkey off his back.

In the years leading up to 1993, Bowden’s Seminoles had been arguably the most talented and dominant team in the country over the previous 6 seasons. The 1987 squad is potentially the best FSU team ever, the 1991 team had perhaps the highest peak of any FSU team before a rash of injuries, and the 1988 and 1992 squads would’ve had a good chance of winning a theoretical four-team playoff. But aside from being littered with NFL talent and brimming with swagger, those teams had one other common trait: they all lost to Miami (FL) (and for 1987, 1988, and 1992, Miami (FL) was their only loss)). Adding salt to the wound, the one year FSU actually did dominate Miami (FL) in that stretch—1989—Miami (FL) won the national title anyway. How’s that for irony, Alanis?

So when FSU opened up the 1993 season with a string of demolitions, the one question permeating all of Tallahassee was, “could this team finally beat Miami (FL)?”

As the calendar page flipped to October, anticipation grew. The Hurricanes had been impressive in their own right, smothering a Boston College Eagles team who would finish the year ranked in the top 15 (and do a massive favor to FSU in November) in the season opener, hold the Virginia Tech Hokies and Georgia Southern Eagles to a combined 9 points, and take down the powerful Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder. By game week, the stage had been set for yet another top 3 showdown between FSU and Miami (FL). And this time, Sean Jackson, Charlie Ward, and a ferocious defense showed the nation a new sheriff was in town.

Timeout.

One of the underlying reasons for FSU’s frequent heartbreak at the hands of Miami (FL) was field goals. Yes, that seems like an obvious statement, but I’m not talking about the late game misses that left a younger version of yours truly crying as he walked out of Doak Campbell and the Orange Bowl, asking his old man if we’d ever win a title? No, I’m talking about settling for field goals.

You see, against every team not named Miami (FL) the late-80s, early 90s FSU offense was Mike Tyson on a gridiron. The Seminoles frequently came out the gate hot with an explosive touchdown and then, sensing an opponent on the ropes, hit them with a flurry of action that sent them to the mat. But for whatever reason, FSU never seemed to land knockout blows against the ‘Canes, instead settling for field goals that produced anxiety-inducing leads like 16-10 or 27-21. And like clockwork, despite often being out-gained and out-played for much of the day, Miami (FL) would score touchdowns to FSU’s field goals and walk away with the victory. This, more than anything else, is where 1993 was different.

Okay, back to the action.

Sean Jackson was a senior in 1993. Warrick Dunn might’ve been the freshman sensation, but Jackson was still the starter, and for good reason. A powerful, bruising tailback with surprising burst, Jackson had been through the wars with Miami (FL) three previous times. He’d seen how leaving a game to be decided by kicks was not working out that well for FSU. And with a record crowd of 77,000+ fans buzzing with electricity, Jackson decided this year he wasn’t going to be denied the endzone (for more detail checkout our write-up for the 17th best play in FSU history):

As in 1989, the early haymaker had been delivered.

But Dennis Erickson’s crew answered later in the first quarter, tying the game up with a touchdown of their own. After all, that’s what Miami (FL) did against FSU back then. I recall the mood in the crowd being an understandable mix of hope and dread. Was this just the same movie on repeat? Would the FSU offense settle for field goals?

Roughly 90 seconds after Da U tied it up, we got our answer:

Thomasville, Georgia native Charlie Ward eluded pressure and hit Live Oak native Matt Frier for a 72-yard catch and run that would prove to be all the scoring FSU needed on this October day. It’s an iconic moment from an iconic rivalry, and a moment that truly allowed those in attendance to believe this year might be different.

In fact, it was Miami (FL) who ended up settling for a field goal while down 21-7 later in the game, before Devin Bush put things on ice with FSU’s 4th score of the day, all of the 6 point variety:

The Rock could definitely smell the ibis cooking in Doak Campbell.

Matt Minnick, the resident Tomahawk Nation historian, is a Tallahassee native and life long Seminoles fan, attending over 225 FSU football games across the country since 1986.


We love hearing your favorite Florida State football moments and memories. Drop a comment below sharing your favorite memory from FSU’s games against Miami (FL).